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Innovative web tool supports quality compost use

WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) and the Composting Association are pleased to announce the launch of an innovative web tool for tracking the supply and use of quality compost in agriculture and field horticulture.

The web tool, sponsored by WRAP and developed by Enviros Consulting together with the Composting Association. was created to provide an efficient, paperless way to record deliveries of quality BSI PAS 100 compost to farms and horticultural holdings. It also helps land managers plan compost application rates and ensure that good agricultural practice is followed. This means applying compost at rates that take into account crop nutrient needs, soil type, pH and nutrient status, as well as gradual changes in soil Potentially Toxic Element (PTE) levels. One of the key requirements of the Quality Protocol for Compost (QPC) is that soil PTE concentrations should not exceed limits set in the Sludge Use in Agriculture Code of Practice so the new tool allows projections to be made and levels to be monitored.

The web tool will make it easier for compost producers on the Composting Association's certification scheme, and supplying to agriculture, to comply with the QPC, by enabling them to enter their compost test results and record deliveries to farms. Land managers, or consultants acting on their behalf, will also be able to enter soil test results, plan compost applications to fields, and check modelled effects on soil PTE levels before compost is applied. Actual compost applications should later be confirmed, as compost may be spread on different dates, at different rates or over modified field areas, subject to weather conditions, for example. The web tool remodels soil PTE concentrations once actual compost application has taken place.

Compost producers will be asked to input a range of information into the tool, including compost pH, nutrient status and organic matter content, either for the batch supplied or 'typical' of at least three batches. By recording batch codes supplied compost traceability can be maintained..

Jo Fitzpatrick, Business Development Manager at Material Change Limited, said “Agriculture is an important market for our business. After attending one of the recent WRAP supported training courses, I was keen to start using the web tool. Having learnt how to use it, the web tool is already saving me time when planning compost deliveries to agricultural customers.”

Data entered into the web tool should also prove very useful to land managers and their advisors. Anna Becvar, a consultant soil scientist qualified under the Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme who helped to develop the web tool said, “The web tool generates 'agricultural benefit' statements which show total and estimated 'fertiliser equivalent' (available) nutrients that would be supplied when compost is applied at good agricultural practice and Nitrate Vulnerable Zone rates. The tool also enables the land manager to easily review records of compost stored and spread on the farm, check field soil PTE levels and add further soil test results. The compost and soil information is particularly useful when putting together soil and nutrient management plans, which are part of demonstrating compliance with the Common Agricultural Policy Cross-Compliance Schemes.”

Compost producer access to the web tool is set up by the Composting Association, but land managers and consultants can register their own user names and passwords. The tool's robust user permissions feature ensures that web tool data can be viewed and edited only by the land manager, the relevant compost supplier and any chosen consultant. Checks on the supply and use of compost, as recorded in the web tool, are carried out by certification body inspectors, as part of the BSI PAS 100 and QPC audit. The web tool address is www.qualitycompost.org and guidance on how to use it can be downloaded from its home page. The Composting Association also provides a Microsoft Excel template that can be used instead of the web tool. However, it is strongly recommended that the web tool is used for efficiency in recording, retrieving and checking the data.

Since the QPC's launch in March 2007, there has been a significant increase in applications to the BSI PAS 100 certification scheme, and more than 1.17 million tonnes of quality compost per annum is now being produced. Having anticipated strong growth, in June the Composting Association began transferring producers already on the scheme to the certification bodies it has contracted to deliver its revised PAS and QPC scheme – Checkmate International and Organic Farmers and Growers. This will ensure a robust and independent auditing process.

As the industry strides forward into self-regulation under the QPC, the web tool will play an invaluable role in the continued development of the composting industry.

For more information on the Quality Protocol for Compost please visit www.compost.org,uk or www.wrap.org.uk/composting

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